Mayor appoints Chuck Simms permanent Fire Commissioner, citing Department’s major progress

  • DFD providing historic low medical response times, below national average
  • City now also has most ambulances on the street in department’s history
  • Under City Charter, Council must approve mayor’s selection 

Mayor Mike Duggan today announced his selection of Interim Executive Fire Commissioner Chuck Simms to become permanent Commissioner. Simms was named Interim Commissioner at a time when an absence of visible leadership at DFD during Covid was resulting in slower response times and an increase in stress-related issues among department personnel.   

Upon being named Interim Commissioner, Simms immediately took steps to visit all firehouses regularly to listen to the concerns of firefighters and medics.  He also implemented mental health and well-being resources, as well as regular health screenings for all members.  

DFD new commissioner pic1
Mayor Duggan announces his decision to name Chuck Simms as permanent Fire Commissioner, as a result of his accomplishments.


Among the department’s key accomplishments under Simms’ leadership are:  

  • Through the first three quarters of 2023, the Department has provided its fastest-ever response times to life-threatening medical emergencies, averaging 7:57 from the time of the initial 911 call.  The national standard is 8:00. During the week of Oct 1-7, the department registered an average response time of 7:00.  Initial medical response is provided by either an EMT/Paramedic, or a firefighter that is cross-trained as a medical first responder, whichever arrives first on scene. 
  • Doubling the number of ambulances on the street during peak hours. The Department now averages 38-40 ambulances during peak times, compared to 20-22 just six months ago.  A decade ago the department was averaging just 10 ambulances during these same hours.  
  • With the addition of more ambulances, the Department is now averaging a total response time for the arrival of an ambulance to transport a patient consistently below 10 minutes from the time of the 911 call. The average for the week of Oct 1-7 was 9:09. 
DFD new commissioner pic2
Mayor Duggan joins Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison, newly appointed Executive Fire Commissioner Chuck Simms, Councilmember Young II, and retired fire commissioner Harold Watkins, Sr. outside of Engine 53.


“Under Chuck Simms’ leadership, the Detroit Fire Department is providing its highest and most consistent level of service in its history,” said Mayor Duggan. “Over the past two years he has demonstrated his ability to lead one of the most respected fire departments in the nation to new heights and I’m proud to name him as DFD’s permanent Executive Fire Commissioner.” 

Simms also has led the effort to move DFD fully to a dual-role department, meaning all personnel will be crossed trained as either Firefighter/EMT or Firefighter Paramedic. So far, more than 60 members of the department have become fully dual trained.  Simms also has launched a major recruitment effort that will result in another 100 firefighter/EMTs on the street between now and January and another 50-70 by summer.  

A 37-year veteran of the Detroit Fire Department, Simms was named interim commissioner in December 2021.  He joined the department in 1986 at age 19.  Since that time, he has risen steadily through the ranks from Firefighter/EMT to Fire Investigator Lieutenant, Fire Investigator Captain and Chief of Arson and Fire investigations.  During his time as Chief of Arson, Simms oversaw a 74% increase in the number of arrests of arson suspects, which became a major contributing factor to the plunge in arson fires and eventual end of the need for an annual citywide Angels’ Night campaign to prevent arson fires. He was elevated to the rank of Second Deputy Fire Commissioner in 2016, where he has overseen the Fire Marshal, Fire investigations, Communications, Training and Community Relations divisions.  

DFD new commissioner pic3
Executive Fire Commissioner Chuck Simms thanks Mayor Duggan before providing remarks.


Simms, 56, was born in Detroit and graduated from Pershing High School. He then went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in education from Wayne State University. 

Simms thank Mayor Duggan for his support over the past two years and for his ongoing confidence.  

“My entire career has been with the Detroit Fire Department, and I can’t express the pride it gives me to now have the opportunity to lead it as Executive Fire Commissioner,” said Simms. “We have the finest men and women of any fire department in the country.  My goal is to build on what they’ve accomplished over the past two years and shift the fire department’s role in the community to being as much about prevention and education as it is about response.”    

Recently, Simms launched a citywide effort to make Detroit a HeartSafe Community, by placing more Automated External Defibrillator (AED) units across the city to make them more accessible to bystanders when someone begins suffering from cardiac arrest. That includes a new citywide map of AED locations, as well expanded community-based training, so people know how to properly use these life saving devices. CPR training is also an integral part of this campaign, and Commissioner Simms is leading the Department to ensure every 8th grader in the city is CPR-trained.